Dave Douglas and Gary Burton among first names announced for Cheltenham

In these dreary days at the arse end of January, here are some reasons not just to be cheerful but to be downright ecstatic.

The first big names have been revealed for this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival (1-6 May), and they are exceedingly fine ones. Among the highlights:

Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas

Trumpeter Dave Douglas is bringing across his Be Still project, the mix of jazz, church and folk music which was joint-No.1 in my 2012 Festive 50. Having been initially disappointed that singer Aoife O’Donovan is not in the line-up (I think she’s otherwise engaged at that time) and not being familiar with her substitute, Heather Masse, it only took one listen to a YouTube clip to be reassured that Masse is a worthy stand-in, and this should be a really special concert.

The great vibraphonist Gary Burton leads his current band with young guitarist Julian Lage and Pat Metheny drummer Antonio Sanchez. Having made his first recording in the band of Nashville guitarist Hank Garland Burton is well-known for having a good ear for a string-picker. This is the man in whose band the guitar alumni list boasts Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Mick Goodrick, John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Mike Stern

Mike Stern

Speaking of guitarists, there’s a chance to hear Mike Stern in something of a fusion supergroup with saxophonist Bill Evans and drummer Dave Weckl.

There is a chance to hear more of the fruitful collaboration between composer/arranger Mike Gibbs and the Hans Koller Ensemble.

Saxophonst Ravi Coltrane has put a superb band together with Ralph Alessi on trumpet, the pianist of the moment David Virelles, Drew Gress on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. They’ll be playing music from Coltrane’s recent Blue Note album Spirit Fiction.

And the Edition Records Quartet is an exciting Brit-Norwegian band with pianist Dave Stapleton and trumpeter Neil Yates from this side of the North Sea, doing magical things with saxophonist Marius Neset and tuba player Daniel Herskedal from that side.

There’s just one reaction to that line-up: Wow!

The full programme will be announced on 11 February, and you can read more here.

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